From Christian Union “The Pagan Review”: Review of The Pagan Review
This new British publication is but a moderate straw, which
indicates the blowing of no very violent wind. It is not an
organized assault upon any citadel of received doctrine; its pro-
moters do not appear to be troubled about creeds. Nor have
they any desire to be unkind; their only direct polemic state-
ment is that “the religion of our forefathers has not only ceased
for us personally, but in no longer in any vital and general sense
a sovereign power in the realm.” It is a thing of the past, these
young gentlemen think, and as such hardly worthy of more
words; “it is stull fruitful of vast good.” Disdaining to slay the
slain, they are concerned with the inauguration of “a new
epoch,” which “is indeed in many respects already begun.” The
chief feature of this new epoch appears to be the deliverance of
Woman from feudal and conventional bonds. (As for Man, he
is perhaps in this regard tolerably free already; but Woman is
not.) Those concerned will please notice that “the long half-
acknowledged, half-denied duel between Man and Woman is to
cease.” Not that these reformers wish “to disintegrate, degrade,
abolish marriage;” on the contrary, they “would fain see that
sexual union become the flower of human life. But first the
rubbish must be cleared away.”
Lest this programme should appear too precise, the “Foreward”
goes on to say that “these remarks should not be taken too liter-
ally” as indicating the character of the new periodical, which is
to be “purely literary, no philosophical, partisan, or propagand-
ist;” i.e., it is not a review at all, but a magazine with a bias.
It is to be “a mouthpiece of the new pagan sentiment of the
younger generation.” And what is this sentiment? Here at
last we get something definite. “The supreme interest of Man is
—Woman; and the most profound and fascinating problem to
Woman is Man.” Therefore “literature dominated by the vari-
ous forms of the sexual question should prevail.” True, the
French have sometimes gone too far, and there are minor mat-
ters which deserve attention in their degree. Matthew Arnold
said that Conduct was three-fourths of Life—not the whole of it.
“The Pagan Review” (in substance) accepts this dictum, substi-
tuting for “Conduct” “the Sexual Emotion.”
The contents of the first number carry out the profes-
sions of the “Foreward.” Feelings and relations supposed to
exist between men and women furnish the inspiring theme.
But Zolaesque realism—and realism of any kind, indeed—is
happily absent. The ardor is imaginative, dreamy, romantic.
One of the stories goes back to a prehistoric (or undated) barba-
rism for its theme; another is called “The Rape of the Sabines;”
a third has its scene in “an upland glade among the Hima-
layas;” only the worse and feeblest of the lot comes as near
home as Paris. The prose pieces are no less poetical than
those which essay meter and rhyme.
It is not necessary to take these young writers as seriously as
they take themselves. Their effort is not so much to be wicked
as to be free—from bonds which they could not easily describe.
They are tolerably honest, very restless, and extremely eager
for they don’t know what—except that it is to get into the depths
of “Life,” and meantime, lacking experience of what it is, to
depict what they fancy it might be. Their work smacks of
unoccupied energies and too much leisure. It is not as new as
they suppose; we had far too much of this sort of thing before.
One or two of them show ability, but not enough to set the
Thames on fire. Mr. Swinburne (whom they do not mention)
is far and away their master.
No one need lose sleep through fear of the harm the “Pagan
Review” is going to do. As the editor proudly says, “We aim
at thoroughgoing unpopularity;” and this aim is pretty safe